Interview: Flagg of Activeworlds, Inc (pt2)
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Part 1 of a 3 part interview with Tom 'Flagg' from Activeworlds Incorporated. Part 2 includes PAV pricing, community attacks and the new .x format. There has of course been a lot of controversy regarding the pricing of personal avatars and their modeling requirements, at the time you mentioned that other systems were being worked on – could you say anything about these? [PAVs / CAVs]

[limg]/assets/misc/pav_vendors.jpg[/limg]Well I think the first step in this process was the PAV vendor program. Though it started slow I would say this can now be classified a success for both the vendor and the customer. The PAV vendor programmed helped provide a more cost effective PAV solution for our Citizens while also getting other community members involved in the PAV process.

We have identified the need for CAVs or a similar concept and are actively and intently working on this now. It is AWIs belief that our software is significantly more advanced, capable and flexible than the other options on the market, but comparisons of the genre seem to frequently return to avatars. For this main reason and others we are working to provide both our Citizens and corporate clients with more avatar options and customizations. Variations of custom avatars are already available in some of our corporate customer environments. Activeworlds, Inc often comes under attack from members of the community for the quality and engineering of its software – can you explain to us the efforts that go into designing and testing the software prior to its public release?

Well I disagree with the “often” characterization because it is usually the same members each time. I personally feel these members don’t fully understand the scope, intent and concept of our software. Activeworlds has been around since 1995 and you can still find content from 1995 in our Universe. I think it’s unreasonable to expect an undertaking the scope and size of Activeworlds to be bug or issue free. Each release of our software needs to work with the creations of over 700 worlds and countless other Solservers, Galaxervers and Uniservers. They also need to work with the crazy amount of PC variations around the world. Activeworlds is not designed for a game console audience. That’s to say we don’t have a development period, followed by a testing period, followed by a release period, followed by celebration and partying. Even companies that do have that structure rarely release bug free products. Our development is a constant process and our programmers work constantly in all aspects of development and testing. As each feature is added old issues are addressed and new issues pop up. Personally I’m surprised we have as few issues as we do when you look at the grand scope of what we have accomplished and what we are still trying to accomplish. I have yet to see an entertaining, bug free online community.

[rimg]/assets/misc/abused_by_cits.jpg[/rimg]For major changes we usually do run a select beta program consisting mostly of Citizens identified as respectful of AWI programmers, knowledgeable of beta programs and involved in the concepts we’re testing. Our beta programs are usually run and managed by our programmers in the manner that suits them best for balancing timeframes, feedback and workflow. Those criticisms seem to most often come from a small group of the most experienced users. Activeworlds, Inc has historically dismissed almost all complaints out of hand; do complaints and suggestions from the community user base have any impact in your opinion?

Absolutely. Nobody here likes or wants an upset customer and we work to address each issue with straight forward responses and policy. Sometimes our priorities are unknown or do not sync with a current Citizen issue, but we take every concern very seriously and I personally try to address each issue with the party or parties concerned. The new type of object format, x, will obviously bring about a lot of new features. What have you seen of the new format? Does Activeworlds, Inc. plan on using .x as standard now?

Our artists are now using the .x format for almost all their avatar creations and they look great. It is very easy to imagine a future were .x is the their standard for objects as well.

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